Something crashed in New Mexico 70 years ago, or was it someone?
Whatever wrecked in the famous “Roswell Incident” in 1947, it was already world news before the crash debris was delivered to Fort Worth.
In New Mexico, a U.S. Army Air Force spokesman called it a “flying saucer,” setting off a worldwide sensation. But later that day, officers at what is now Naval Air Station Fort Worth showed a Star-Telegram reporter a bundle of tinfoil and sticks and identified it as a weather balloon.
The mysterious debris has made then-Star-Telegram reporter J. Bond Johnson famous, and his photos the most requested and studied in the newspaper’s 111 years.
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The press interview here always has been called a cover-up. Maybe so. A later federal investigation described the wreckage as a top-secret spy balloon that officials were hiding.
But the debris in the photos looks like a plain old weather balloon. And why blame a UFO?
Johnson happened to be in the newsroom July 8, 1947, when city editor Cullum Greene sent him to see the wreckage flown by a B-29 from Roswell.
What the information officer there first described as “nothing made on this earth” was unfolded here and looked like foil, paper and sticks. Both the rancher who gathered it up from a ranch near Corona, N.M., and the pilot who flew it to Fort Worth also described it as just a small bundle.
“ ‘Disk-overy’ Near Roswell Identified As Weather Balloon,” the headline read.
This is the perfect piece of UFO evidence. … If we could only read what it says.
Iowa UFO researcher Kevin Randle on the paper in J. Bond Johnson’s photo
Johnson, 21, a Methodist minister’s son and later a minister himself, had graduated from Texas Wesleyan College. His sister, Elaine J. Carroll, said Johnson got the assignment because the staff photographers were gone and he had a Speed Graphic camera.
Johnson shot six frames of Brig. Gen. Roger Ramey, 8th Air Force commander, and other officers with what Johnson described as “crumpled tinfoil, broken sticks and ragged rubber.”
Researchers now visit the UTA library to study the photos for clues, particularly to read whatever is in Ramey’s hand.
“This is the perfect piece of UFO evidence,” said Iowa researcher Kevin Randle, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and combat veteran.
“We see it in his hand. We know the photographer. Now — if we could only read what it says.”
J. Bond Johnson’s photos were donated with other Star-Telegram archives to the UT Arlington Special Collections library.
Researchers are using high-range scans to zoom in on the negative. They hope it shows a telegram and a clue about the wreckage, but it may simply be a teletype wire story.
“There are people who say it refers to ‘victims of the wreck,’ but there’s no consensus,” Randle said.
There is no debate Johnson’s photos show debris from a weather balloon.
“Everybody agrees something fell from the sky,” Randle said.
“So far, all the evidence for it being alien spacecraft has blown up in our faces. You cannot make the leap into this being extraterrestrial.”
That hasn’t stopped anybody for 70 years.